Take Two®

News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by A Martínez

LA's new child protection chief talks need for change in welfare system

by Alex Cohen and Monica Bushman | Take Two®

71941 full
Social worker Alfred McCloud knocks on the front door of a home in south L.A. to check on a toddler. McCloud works the night shift with the Department of Child and Family Services' Emergency Response Team. Grant Slater/KPCC

L.A. County's child welfare system has been plagued with problems that first came to light in May 2013.

That's when 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez was tortured and beaten to death, allegedly at the hands of his mother and her boyfriend. Several agencies had investigated allegations of abuse before Fernandez's death, but each time, they concluded there was no evidence and did not write a detailed report.

In the wake of his death, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors created a Blue Ribbon Commission to examine where things fell apart. The group declared a state of emergency in L.A.'s child welfare system and called for dozens of reforms, including the creation of a brand new Office of Child Protection. 

Now that office has a new leader: Michael Nash, former presiding judge of L.A. County's Juvenile Court. Nash spoke with Take Two host Alex Cohen.


On what made him want to take on the incredibly challenging new job

"For a number of reasons. Some people might just say I'm plain crazy, and I wouldn't necessarily disagree with that. But quite frankly, this has been a passion of mine for some 26 years now. I began as a judge in the juvenile court in 1990. And from 1995 until I retired at the beginning of 2015, I was in a position of leadership in the juvenile court. And I think during that period of time, we did some positive things. I wish that I could have said when I left that I had fixed the whole thing, but I guess that wasn't to be. But through this position here, which is a very unique position, I will have a very unique opportunity to continue in that crusade to help our county in how it serves at risk children and families in Los Angeles County, and I'm excited about that."

On his approach toward bringing different parties involved in the child welfare system together

"The one thing I've always believed is that we really have to have the attitude of, we have to do the right thing for our kids. And it has not been that difficult to find areas that we can agree on when it comes to doing the right thing for kids and families. Now, there are issues that arise, some may have to do with the availability of resources, there are different perspectives about certain things, but at the end of the day, everybody that works in this area knows that at some point we will and we must come to a consensus so that we can move forward. And I believe that that will continue to be the case."

To hear the full interview, click the blue player above.

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